Quality assurance within the NHS Breast Screening Programme

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance is a fundamental part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme. The aim of quality assurance in the NHSBSP is to maintain minimum standards and to improve the performance of all aspects of breast screening in order to ensure that women have access to a high quality breast screening service wherever they live.

How is quality assurance organised?

Each NHS region has a quality assurance director for breast screening and a quality assurance reference centre. Each regional quality assurance director is supported by a regional quality assurance team which includes a professional coordinator from each of the professions which contribute to the breast screening programme (radiology, radiography, pathology, surgery, breast care nursing, administration and medical physics). Each professional coordinator meets regularly with colleagues in the region to review the performance and outcomes of the breast screening programme, to share good practice and to encourage continued improvements in the programme. There is also a programme of regular quality assurance visits to breast screening units. These provide a further means of assessing the performance of the breast screening programme and of professional competence within the programme. They are an essential part of quality assurance.

What do quality assurance reference centres do?

The quality assurance reference centres (QARCs) collect and collate data about the performance and outcomes of the breast screening programme, organise quality assurance visits, and provide support for the regional director of quality assurance and the professional coordinators. The reference centre is the first point of contact for information about the breast screening programme in the region.

How are quality assurance standards set?

Regional quality assurance directors and professional coordinators meet regularly in a series of national coordinating committees. Representatives of relevant professional organisations such as the Royal Colleges are also represented on these committees. The national coordinating committees produce guidance on good practice and set standards and targets for staff working in the breast screening programme and for the technical performance of equipment. National standards and targets for the performance and outcomes of the programme are also published. These are published in a series of NHS Breast Screening Publications.

Regional Quality Assurance Reference Centres

  • North East Yorkshire & the Humber QARC
  • North West QARC
  • East Midlands QARC
  • West Midlands QARC
  • South Central QARC
  • South West QARC
  • East of England QARC
  • London QARC
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